The missing link between ‘spiritual formation’ and evangelism

Written:

10/15/09

Published:

11/1/09

Bibliography:

Beyond Belief: Christianity for the Sake of Others, by Todd Hunter

 

“Apologetics, it seems [from the ’emergent’ philosophy/trend], is dead.  But I’m not buying it—at least, not completely.  I’ll buy the fact that the dictionary definition of apologetics might have fallen on hard times—using formal logic, a systematic, argumentative discourse offering positive proof for or defences of Christianity.  It is true that people are tired of the worst forms of apologetics—being sold, spun, and jerked around by selective logic.  But that doesn’t mean no one cares to know what is real, true, and valid.  It means that today, many but not all, people access truth and reality in ways that don’t match up with formal apologetics.  A new form of apology, a new defence and explanation, is emerging.  Witnessing a God-inspired, consistent life of creative goodness is, in my view, the new apologetic.

I suggest that creatively doing good for others is effective because lots of people today are not asking, ‘Is this true?’  Rather, they tend to ask, ‘Is it real, genuine, and making a difference in your life?  Are you becoming a better person because of your faith and the presence of God in your life?  Do others experience you and your pursuit of religion as good for them?’  Seekers, at least those paying attention, have known too many people in their families, at work, or around their neighbourhoods who become worse as they pursue religion.  Such people often become the office nag, the quarrelling know-it-all, or the judgemental, gossipy neighbour.

Often apologetics is believed to fit into a similar pushy, bossy mold.  This doesn’t mean truth is irrelevant, or that Christian doctrine is neither here nor there, but people access those things in different ways today than they have in the last few decades.  And they often do so in a different order than might be expected.  Often seeing that Christianity works, they then begin to look into the various truths associated with Christianity.”

This passage stirs something deep in me…for a long while I have wrestled with two aspects of the life of an apprentice of Jesus that I have seen as separate and unrelated: spiritual formation and evangelism. I now see a clear link between them.

As we are continually, measurably transformed into Christlikeness and seek to live for the sake of others, this is in itself a primary form of evangelism—as primary as being ready to ‘give a defense/explanation’ of the gospel in classical apologetics style. People today, quite rightly, want to see something genuine and authentic about the positive benefits now of being a Christian. If we focus on becoming the kind of person who displays the power and freedom of the transformed life of an apprentice of Jesus, evangelism then becomes simply an expression of living our lives.

As an ‘evangelical’, when I think of evangelism I move immediately to the apologetics framework (which I believe is of value), but emphasise less perhaps why Christianity matters, and do not focus on the power of a genuinely transformed life affecting those around me.

Spiritual formation, then, or intentional apprenticeship to Jesus and growth in Christlikeness, is inextricably linked to sustainable evangelism. This is a game-changer for me. Both are inherently of value, and worth intentionally practicing, but I now see them as complementary parts of my walk with Jesus and not separate or fragmented.

Author: steeres

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